Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
How do you love from afar? How do you walk through each day loving your best friend when he loves another? Even more, how do you stand with him, aching for him to finally see you as something more, when he is mired in the loss of his former relationship? Lastly, how do you get him to stay and finally see you as something more? These are the driving questions of Kandi Steiner’s newest Becker Brothers book, Manhattan.
Centered around the youngest Becker brother, Michael “Mikey,” and his best friend, Kylie, this romance is a story of being seen and chosen. Kylie has loved Mikey from afar since they were eight years old. She has been his rock, his entertainment, his partner-in-crime, and his best friend. Through the years, they have culled so many memories together that they could fill a stadium. Yet, Mikey doesn’t notice Kylie as anything more than his best friend. One day, however, Mikey begins to finally recognize that Kylie is a girl, not just his androgynous best friend. Coming off of a devastating break-up, he has been so absorbed with it that he hasn’t recognized how much Kyle has changed. In one moment, his eyes begin to open to her, and their love story begins. As their romantic journey progresses, both of them are afraid of the future. Kylie is set to explore a gap year, while Mikey has decided to go to Manhattan. When their feelings grow more deeply, a threat occurs that derails their progress and tanks their friendship. Can Mikey and Kylie live their future apart, or are they destined to be together in the end?
For me, Kylie is the star of this book. I couldn’t say that for the first two books in Steiner’s series of standalones, On the Rocks and Neat. In those books, Noah and Logan were my favorites. In Manhattan, the heart of this story is Kylie. She is a savior, an empath, and a buoy. She singlehandedly saves Michael from himself. She hands so much of her soul to others that it sometimes is a detriment. She’s insightful, stubborn, and beautiful. And her happiness and pain grab at the reader’s heart and connect you into this story. From its outset, you know she’s the reason to read Steiner’s romance.
In contrast, I found myself annoyed with Mikey. In fact, he’s Moody Michael, to me. In On the Rocks and Neat, we know the reason for his depression and apathy for anything. Yet, what makes him annoying is his willingness to mire himself in it. Sitting before him, he has a best friend and family members who love him. Unfortunately, for the first half of the story, Michael is pretty self-absorbed. I can’t tell you the number of times I wrote notes asking “why don’t you realize you haven’t been a good friend?” or “what about Kylie?” Mikey’s characterization is clearly Steiner’s strength in Manhattan because her heroes are oftentimes the best parts of her books. In this one, it takes much of the story for you to love him. When he finally becomes selfless and begins to “see” the depth of Kylie’s character, then he redeems himself. Steiner creates these beautiful moments through Michael’s character that counter his self-absorption at the beginning of their story. I was so thankful for his evolution because it suggests that people can change and happy endings can be realized. Even more, it meant that I could continue to love the Becker brothers.
Manhattan is a poignant story of adventure and risk. At its base level, Mikey and Kylie must risk themselves in order to find their love for each other. The dividends paid for their risk become an adventure into their future. The beauty of this story is the risk of their choices. One of the most powerful moments for me in this book is Kylie’s request to be the first choice, to be Mikey’s biggest risk. It’s Steiner’s admonishment to never settle for anything more than being the first choice. And Manhattan is the best choice you could make to add to your Kindle library.
P.S. This reader can’t wait for oldest brother, Jordan’s, book next year, Old Fashioned. Steiner teases us with his heroine in the beautifully written epilogue for Manhattan. If those details aren’t another reason to read this book, then you aren’t living.
In love and romance,